Was ailing surf scoter at Francis Beach a victim of the oil spill?

Posted by on Sat, November 10, 2007

Alan D. Wilson. CC Licensed.
Surf Scoter

As I was Plover watching on Francis Beach this afternoon, I saw a distressed Surf Scoter (a large sea duck) up on the sand, trying desperately to clean off its feathers.  Like other injured birds, it did not fly off at my approach.  

Suspecting that the Scoter was a victim of the cargo ship oil spill in the Bay, I contacted State Park personnel.  Having no net, we failed at two rescue attempts. The bird was still able to fly. On the second try, the ranger got within one foot of the Scoter, before it flew off.  We did not want to stress it any further.   

It’s sad to think that this bird might not survive because of all the toxic oil it’s ingesting from its feathers.  

It’s unclear whether the bird had been oiled elsewhere and managed to fly here, or whether we have an off shore oil slick here on our Coastside.  Maybe others can monitor our beach conditions in the next few days. 

Driving past Linda Mar beach on Hwy 1 the past few days has been extremely smelly and I figured (without any evidence) that was the oil.

Comment 2
Sun, November 11, 2007 9:36pm
Sofia Freer
All my comments

Today, three more oiled surf scoters were found on Half Moon Bay State Beach.  One was already dead, and of the two that were rescued, only one has a chance of survival.

Earlier today, I received the following message from State Parks:

Hello Everyone:

As of yesterday I had word from the Farallone National Marine Sanctuary staff that the oil spill had reached only as far south as Sharp Park in Pacifica.  This morning I learned that there was one oiled bird collected yesterday at San Gregorio by beach visitors and turned over to Peninsula Humane Society.

Today there is expected to be a change in the direction of the surf swell and the wind which might affect our beaches along San Mateo County.  We need to start looking for oil/tar and oiled birds/animals on the beaches in our area.  If you are out on the beach whether specifically to look for oil, on a usual plover survey, or out for a pleasure walk we would like you to report to us the date, time and area surveyed.  This will be helpful information whether you report both finding oil and not finding oil.

If you locate an oiled bird or animal please contact us at Half Moon Bay State Beach by calling the entrance station at (650)726-8820.  If you need to leave the bird/animal in order to report it, please get good landmarks so that we can find it again.  If it is a live bird/animal we still need to record the specific location, date and time and we will try to photograph it before collecting it.  We will collect the same information if we find dead oiled birds/animals, so again get good land marks.

IMPORTANT:  The oil can be very toxic to humans, too.  You should not pick up oiled birds or animals with bare hands.  Even latex gloves do not provide enough protection.  I am trying to get a supply of the appropriate gloves, now.  Cardboard boxes and paper bags are the preferred choice for collecting live and dead birds - plastic bags react to the petrolium and prevent getting identifiable samples of the oil.

This may become a large effort for us later today and tomorrow.  If it does we will coordinate volunteers for the various beachs along our coast in a more organized manner.

For now, record what you see, whether there is oil or not, and report it to us.  If you are reporting “no oil” you can e-mail that to us.  If you find oil/tar or an oiled bird/animal please report it to us immediately so we can document it and, if it is a live bird/animal get care for it.

Thank you,
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